Finding truth on the cross

Christ and the Good Thief, Titian 1566

Truth ties us together. It draws us to itself. Lies isolate the soul, like a fly in a web, sadly, one woven by the self.

The first thing I ever stole was one of Caesar’s coins, neglected by a drunken Roman soldier. I told myself that it was a righteous act, to take from those who had stolen our country. The Romans never conquered a single land, you know. They always came as invited liberators. At least that’s what they said. Lies.

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Eventually I stole from my own people. I told myself that, because they let themselves be conquered, because they had allowed Rome to steal from them, they had no right to their possessions. My first lie separated me from the foreigner, the oppressor. Its sundry spawn isolated me from Israel itself.

Don’t think that we were together on those crosses. That’s the point of this death. It’s physically cruel; it’s spiritually vicious. You don’t just slowly die. You die alone, stark naked, pinned to a tree, lifted up from the earth, isolated from everyone else. The Romans call it justice. One more lie. Justice is truth, and truth draws men and women together. This, this is the ritualized slaughter of the scape goat, the one who has been cast out, mocked, the one who has no place among men.

And so I hung, a liar loosed from family, from nation, from humanity itself. Crucified by cheats, yet damned by my own deceit. I had been seduced by lies, and they claimed my soul.

But I would not die a deceiver. Something stirred within me when I heard him mocked. Our deaths were born of lies, but here was truth itself, writ deep into that wrecked, wounded body. Here in death, a soul bespoke its sincerity.

I had to speak. For the last time in my life, perhaps for the first, I spoke the truth.

“Have you no fear of God,
for you are subject to the same condemnation?
And indeed, we have been condemned justly,
for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes,
but this man has done nothing criminal” (Lk 23: 40-41).

 

If truth itself was cursed on a cross next to mine, perhaps truth had come to claim me, to gather me into itself.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42).

 

Then, as my life of lies drew to its close, as his soul entered the shades, I heard the words of life. I heard what I could not doubt. I heard what I knew was the truth.

“Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).

 

Luke 19:28-40  Isaiah 50: 4-7  Philippians 2: 6-11  Luke 22: 14-23:56

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
William Rydberg
2 years 10 months ago
Good one and right on point...

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